Objective To investigate the relationship between the Chinese tobacco industry and academic institutions in China.
Methods We searched online databases of journal articles published in both Chinese and English for academic institutions in China conducting research with or sponsored by Chinese tobacco companies. We also searched the websites of tobacco companies, their affiliated institutions and academic institutions for reports of collaborations.
Results The Chinese tobacco industry, in addition to its own strong tobacco research capacity, maintains close ties with an extensive network of academic research institutions and universities to provide both research and training. The Chinese tobacco industry relies heavily upon academic researchers to advance its research agenda and such reliance has grown over time. Most research deals with farming, manufacturing and management issues, but research on ‘reduced harm’ and health effects has increased from 1% of projects in 1983–1987 to 4% in 2003–2007.
Conclusions Chinese academic institutions should consider the fact that engagement with the tobacco industry, particularly on issues related to health or promotion of tobacco products, could damage their reputations, a concern that has led many leading Western universities to eschew relationships with the tobacco industry. To the extent that the Chinese tobacco industry's involvement in academic institutions affects tobacco control policy making; it violates Article 5.3 of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which China ratified in 2005.
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Dr Gan is now a Senior Project Officer with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, in Beijing, China.
Funding This work was supported by National Cancer Institute Training Grant CA-113710 and Research Grant CA-87472. The funding agency played no role in the design of the project, collection and analysis of the data or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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